Salty, the prize-winning 3-year-old Samoyed that had to bow out of the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club show in February because of an undiagnosed illness, is finally on the mend.
"We discovered he had bladder stones," said Hope McCarthy, who, with husband Charles, owns Salty and his older half-brother Bear. "He had major surgery. He's just now gotten his figure and his strength back and his stress levels are down."
Salty and Bear have been show dogs most of their lives.
Salty followed Bear into the ring as a puppy after being spotted by a top breeder who described him as "the nearest thing to (Samoyed) perfection."
Salty's official name is Am/Int/UKC Grand CH White Gold's Salty Dawg CGC, a formidable scroll that belies his sweet, friendly nature. In show terms, he is more than cute. Like the best of his breed, Salty's body is muscular, with a deep chest, well-sprung ribs, a strong neck and loins. The size of his ears, the way his tail curls, his bone mass and the quality of his fluffy white fur all make him a champion.
Salty's ordeal began a few weeks before Westminster, the Super Bowl of dog shows, when he became listless and could not keep food down. At first the McCarthys thought he suffered a toxic reaction of some kind. Even though he appeared to be getting better, they feared that the stress of the event could cause a relapse and withdrew him from the show.
"It's heartbreaking," Mrs. McCarthy said at the time. "He's the only Samoyed we know of from this area to be invited. But he's our pet first." The McCarthy family lives on a 50-foot houseboat moored in Huber Marina near the Sunshine Skyway.
They have continued to enter Salty in lower level shows throughout the year, "and he's been knocking 'em dead, winning best of breed," she said. "We probably won't enter him in Westminster this year. It's still too stressful. We want to make sure he's fully recovered and send him when he's 4.
"But you never know. He's doing so well, I may change my mind."